Altec Lansing ACS 45.1

Back in 1997 I took out a personal loan from the UCLA Credit Union to acquire my first computer: a glorious Quantex Intel Pentium II with 64 MB of RAM. Playing games on Windows 95 had become part of my day job at Audio Visual Services, and when I finally left to attend grad school in New York City, I knew I needed to have my own PC. It cost over $3500 (7x the quarterly tuition at UCLA the time—or almost two years ), and I think I paid about $39 per month for five years. The future ain’t cheap, but at the time it was pretty much the best you could do spec-wise  in terms of a home computer at the time, and Quantex was know for their solid machines and amazing customer support. They eventually folded in 1999 when a key supplier supplier went under (the crazy days of the dot.com bubble).

The “legendary” Altec lansing 45.1 speakers and subwoofer

I loved that computer, I had my own little nook for it in my apartment in Kensington, Brooklyn, and the only thing left of that machine is the sound system. The computer included an Altec Lansing ACS 45.1, which consisted of two cube speakers and a subwoofer that may have been the best thing of this pretty bitchin’ machine. I always thought I had an inflated sense of how good the speakers sounded, but apparently I’m far from alone. The product reviews on ebay are even more hyperbolic than I tend to be:

5 stars: by morrisoninventions Aug 14, 2019

Small size, big accurate clean sound.

Absolutely love the sound and convenience of these speakers + amp + subwoofer. I own 3, and am planning to buy a 4th. (Unfortunately, they are obsolete I think, so I have to track ’em down on Ebay.

5 Stars: by mad_d8n Sep 27, 2022

PC Speaker.

The best computer speakers that I have ever experienced through PC game play, streaming and music.

5 stars by crafty457 Oct 27, 2015

Great sounding old speakers

These things rock!!! I just bought them to replace the ACS45 that I’ve been using for the about past 20 years. I’m a musician, so these speakers see daily use, mostly for listening and learning music. Nice clean and clear sound… subwoofer is tight sounding without any annoying boominess. I have them on a shelf at ear level just above my desk. Very musical sounding

5 stars: by itaduc Dec 28, 2016

Great Sound

Best computer speakers ever made along with Altec’s model ASC 48 that are basically the same.

In fact, when searching for them online now you often find adjectives like “legendary” or “classic” to emphasize just how amazing these speakers, were, are, and will continue to be if you are lucky enough to have them working, which I was when I started this post (more on that in a bit).

Power and Volume control buttons on Altec Lansing ACS 45.1 Speaker

The speakers and subwoofer worked just fine, but the connection between one of the speakers and the subwoofer—which also houses the circuit board and power—seemed to come lose and it effected turning the system off and changing volume. You see on this system one of the speakers is used to both turn on/off power (press both buttons simultaneously) as well as for controlling the volume levels by using each of the buttons separately.

Back of Altec Lansing ACS 45.1 subwoofer

So I figured I would just open up the subwoofer and look for any glaring issue on the circuit board, and maybe re-solder the pin connecting the speaker to the subwoofer. Best laid plans of bava and men! I opened up the subwoofer and poked around, but everything looked really clean, what’s more, the contact points for the speaker’s remote volume and power controls were further protected by another layer of plastic that made it hard to get at. I should have stopped while I was ahead, no doubt. But I proceeded to take the entire thing apart, and that’s were I went very wrong. After re-assembling the subwoofer the speakers still worked, but the subwoofer was not subwoofing. “Leave well enough alone, Jimmy!”

Removing circuit board from Altec Lansing ACS 45.1 subwoofer

So, I took it apart yet again and took off the black protective casing around the inputs for the subwoofer, and after re-assembling nothing worked, so I was 2 for 2 in the fixless department. Another example of where I need a logic probe and new a set of tools so I can actually work on these electronics rather than randomly breaking them. I have another set of the speakers  already on order from Ebay in the US, and will be doing some comparative analysis given there are very few videos about fixing this subwoofer, and I’ll also use the subwoofer card as a test for my new logic probe (assuming I can find the proper schematic).

What annoys me the most is that I didn’t even solder anything, or getting particularly invasive. I am pretty sure the fix is quite simple, but alas the limits of my knowledge are really starting to bug me, time to go search for what an affordable logic probe tool to atone for my sins of ignorance.

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7 Responses to Altec Lansing ACS 45.1

  1. Eric Likness says:

    You are not alone. Ohhh, do I have some Doozies to tell you some day of self-inflicted, best intentioned troubleshooting. Nobody was injured, the house wasn’t lost, livelihoods are STILL intact, nothing life-changing. But those words, “leave it alone” makes me think of Jaws for some reason, Quint, Martin, Matt all out there on the Orca, trying to fix the problem.

    • Reverend says:

      I figure it’s the cost of getting into basic consumer electronics repair, but it sucks how quickly I become out of my depth. I guess the same was true of arcade repair a few years ago, so maybe there is some hope. But I swear, those speakers sounded soooo good! A shitty Evoke player I spent 5x on years ago when I moved to Italy is running in its stead, and once again I realize how good I had it in 1997.

  2. andrew says:

    I had these speakers as part of the Pentium 90 I bought in 1996, heading off to UC Santa Cruz. That giant sub (stashed under my heavy wood dorm desk) made sure that every downstairs dorm neighbor was constantly aware of my progress in Duke Nukem and Quakeworld.

    • Reverend says:

      So good, so we basically must have gotten this setup around the same time, I was about a year later. What make was the Pentium 90 computer? And a Banana Slug no less, how cool is that. In fact, I just picked up a working set while back in American that will be a quick follow-up to this post, and I will have Quake and Duke Nukem installed and ready to annoy the neighbors, thanks for stopping by and commenting

  3. I have someone here offering to take a look if you can send photos. He also asks if you have a basic multi-meter?

    • Reverend says:

      I do have a multimeter, and will send photos, as I mentioned above, I picked up a fresh version will in the US for $70 bucks, so I was going to use that as the working example to see what’s up with mine, but i am also happy to send the whole other unit out for repair if the person is up for making a buck or two given I cause more harm than good on these boards despite my best efforts 🙂

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